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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

5 Recruiter Types You'll Come Across in Your Career (and How to Deal With Each One)

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Almost every professional has a story to tell about the recruiters they’ve talked to, worked with, or (in some cases) endured. As with every profession, you’ll find a mixed bag of personalities and talent.

Some are stellar. They’re exceptional at what they do and true allies throughout your job search or career. Others? Not so much. So, who are you going to encounter when hunting for a new job (or putting yourself out there to be “found”)?

Here are five common types you’re bound to run into:

1. The Newbie

All of us recruiters were newbies once. I recall it vividly. After leaving my job as a corporate marketing communications director, I had about three days of training and then it was go time.

Having been in marketing and PR for years, I had no idea what I was doing, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to let that stop me. I picked up the phone and started dialing up candidates.

Like most newbies, I asked ignorant questions, interpreted the candidate’s background incorrectly, and stumbled on complicated terms and skills (I started as an IT industry recruiter).

I’m pretty certain that every person I called knew within seconds that it was my first week. (Fortunately, most were quite patient and forgiving.)

What to Do if You Run Into a Newbie

Be patient and kind. Everyone starts somewhere. Better yet, go out of your way to use your knowledge to help the person understand your role and industry a little better. When that recruiter’s a seasoned all-star, she’ll surely remember your kindness.

2. The “I’m Only in it for the Money” Recruiter

I can pretty much assure you that few people grow up with the dream that, one day, they’ll be a recruiter. Firefighter? Yes. Lawyer? Totally. Veterinarian? Oh, for sure. Recruiter? Not likely.

Instead, we all kind of gravitate toward or fall into the profession for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes, these reasons are noble (“I want to make a genuine difference in people’s lives”). Other times, less so (“I hear you can make piles and piles of money in recruiting”). Now, there’s certainly no shame in gunning to earn a solid living. However, when “make money” comes at the expense of doing right by the candidates you serve, problems pop up.

Surprised to hear this? Then you’ll probably want to read this article on the four truths about working with recruiters that they’ll never tell you.

What to Do if You Smell a Money-Grubber

If you feel like you’re working with someone seems to be push, push, pushing to close the deal at all costs—especially if you’re feeling in your gut that it’s not the right job—politely request that they slow it on down as you think things through. Do this especially if the role requires big change in your life, like relocation or resigning from a position you like.

3. The Easily Overwhelmed

Recruiting’s typically a fast-paced job that requires mad organizational skills, an ability to multitask with the best of ’em, and a stomach for uncertainty. On any given day, a hiring manager will change her mind, a top candidate will accept another job elsewhere, the scope of a role will change, or all three.

Not everyone’s cut out for the pace. You’ll probably be able to spot The Easily Overwhelmed pretty quickly. He’ll often seem confused or disorganized. He may fail to follow through as promised. He may ask you the same question three times across two days.

What to Do if Your Recruiter Starts Melting

It may not be a disaster if you’re working with someone who’s showing occasional signs of overwhelm (been there). The problem arises when it’s constant, especially if it carries into the “time to close this deal” stage of the relationship.

You want someone who can handle the heat when representing you, no matter how fast-paced the environment. If you genuinely doubt that recruiter assigned to you can take you the distance, consider (politely) speaking with that person’s supervisor about how you might proceed.

4. The Big Promiser (And Small Follow-Thru-er)

Sales people—which is really what recruiters are—like to make big promises. They like to get you excited about the opportunity and raring to take a run at it. And this is great if your recruiter pumps you up while also following through on everything she says she’s going to do.

It’s not so great when she makes big claims and then fails to put her money where her mouth is.

“I’ll call you back tomorrow, right after I show the hiring manager your resume!”

Then crickets.

“I can negotiate at least $10K more for you on salary.”

Then acts like that conversation never happened.

It can be very maddening to deal with this type because you want to trust what she says, but she keeps proving you can’t.

How to Respond to The Big Promiser

I am a believer that big promisers (and small follow-thru-ers) are almost never behaving in this way deliberately. They’re doing so because they, too, want to believe in the words coming out of their mouths. They have the best intentions, yet a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are.

Feedback may help. Try pointing out—in a kind and constructive manner—how what she has promised misled, confused, or impacted you. Then ask if there’s a better way that the two of you can communicate going forward. It could be an awkward conversation, but it very well may improve correspondence going forward.

5. The Big-Time Ally

Now we move on to the Holy Grail of recruiters: The Big-Time Ally. This is the recruiter who has worked like a madwoman to earn the trust and respect of the clients and hiring managers she serves. They look to her for her counsel, recommendations, and almost-always-stellar candidates.

She follows up when she says she will, and has all kinds of influence with the people she represents.

How to Interact With the Big-Time Ally:

If you come across this recruiter, don’t ever let her go. Keep her in your circle for life. She’ll uncover opportunities you probably wouldn’t have found otherwise, and submit you to her clients (or employer) in a way that excites them from word one. She will be your partner, your advocate, and your ace-in-the-hole when it comes to advancing your career

Recruiters can be incredibly helpful, and they can be a pain in the rear. The more you understand who you’re talking with and what his or her motivations, strengths, and limitations are, the better off you’ll be.